the inevitable slow death of sailing journalism - does it matter?
Last week I went down to Imperial College in London to give a talk to the members of the Imperial College Yacht Club. I love talking to sailors - especially young intelligent beautiful people fresh into adulthood.
The fact that they turned up in a lecture room on a rainy evening to meet an old windbag was rather flattering. We met at six and started eating pizza and coke before we started.
In the old days I used to prepare for talks.. Then I discoverd that the best thing to do is to get the person who asked me to come to choose the films from my website (250 there at the moment) they want to show. It allows the discussions to drift around in the direction they want it to go.
I always use the talks as a way of doing some market research. We started talking about the way they learn about sailing
blogs, free books and the sailing anarchy website.
They asked about financing the journey so we went onto subscriptions, DVDs and magazine journalism.
I mentioned the magazines I write for none of them had ever bought them.
. "Old news" was their response to newspapers and magazines.
Some of them had visited my website - but none of them were subscribers - they had watched the free stuff and drifted on
They basically regarded journalism, books, music and films as being free at the point of digital demand. All but one said they had ad-blockers on their browsers.
It made me realise I am lucky that I have been able to read some brilliantly written magazines over the years - and even write the odd the item or two
I think there is a sort of fin de siecle feel about magazines now.
Sadly they are probably doomed when my/our generation dies or forgets where their glasses are because the magazines will plain run out of readers.
not sure where that leaves me and the other sailing hacks.
Blathering away into the ether I reckon
on the positive side I have since had orders from the students for five sets of DVDs - which they said they were going to copy for themselves and then pass the proper disks onto their dads
there I feel better now
By and large, I think magazines eff it up when they try to go digital, because they try to provide a digital magazine. They cannibalize their subscription and newsstand sales which decimates the advertising base, and thins out the mag which further hacks at the readership while they fumble along trying to figure out how to generate income from free content until the thing becomes irrelevant and goes poof.
There are only three magazines that I subscribe to: Wooden Boat, Good Old Boat and Small Craft Advisor.
Because I freakin' have to!!
They have a web presence as an adjunct to their paper presence, offering value- added info rather than regurgitation of what is in print. Very clever, actually- the website acts as a teaser for the mag, and the mag acts as a teaser for the site, driving subscribers and browsers and ad dollars in both directions.
A brilliant combination that seems to work well.
We are seeing publishing undergoing a seismic shift right now- publishing houses are becoming less and less relevant with the explosive growth of e-readers and e-publishing, and the publishing business, for better or worse is becoming less elitist and more accessible. Anyone can publish a book today for pennies...
...and it shows. There is some truly horrible stuff out there.
I think we will see some major changes in periodical distribution over the next 5 years as mags and newspapers and the publishing houses get a handle on e-readers and the possibilities.
I have a mildly successful boat blog, that thous, er, hund, er, nearly dozens seem to enjoy. It's filled with lots of good information, some average story telling and some truly exceptional lying...
Like thousands of other blogs out there, some better, many, many, worse, all free.
Technology has permanently altered the concept of intellectual property rights. As well as the way we access the fruits of of it. Add in the notion that, hey, we're not ripping anybody off, we're just "sharing", and you have a developing sense of right of access. At this point, I feel it's too late, in any practical sense, to stop it.
but does it matter to us sailors - as a hack it matters to me - but as a sailor I don't think I will miss out on any information
as Jonesey says.. there are lots of bloggers around and you soon learn about which ones are worth reading and which ones are worth ignoring.
There are loads of old great sailing books around and they are easy to find on ebay - pretty soon they will be available for freemans as downloads as well.
I agree.... it is too late.... the horse has bolted
truly a sad state of affairs
"it is too late.... the horse has bolted" --
I don't think the horse bolted. He was shot in the head by a corporate bean counter to save on horse feed.
Next day when a horse was needed the bean counter rented a smaller foreign model "horse", (actually a big dog). Then he worked the dog to death.
The dog couldn't carry as much as the horse so profits went down, not even money there get a new dog - so the bean counter got a litter of puppies.
No one would take the puppies seriously so he had to call them interns.
They are not as smart as the dog or as strong as the horse but they will work for free. Being puppies they can't do much useful but they and the bean counter still need to eat.
So the bean counter sold the barn in a declining market to save his investors (who all took a bath).
As our story ends everyone is dead, broke, homeless or hungry.
EXCEPT the old dude who wisely invested in a sailboat when he saw the bean counter get his gun.:)
Print media has been on the wane for many years. Two decades ago I was writing for 25 different publications and making a darned good living. Today, the vast majority of the magazines are either out of business, or scaled down to the point where they should be out of business. Newspapers are in the same fix, most either purchased by a major conglomerate or just so thin you no longer have enough paper to light the woodstove.
The last publication I wrote for, Noreaster Magazine, went under just over a year ago. The reason behind their untimely demise, and the demise of most others, was a lack of advertisers. Yep, the supporting, allied businesses have taken a bad hit in this economy and boat sales, particularly sailboat sales, have been down the toilet for more than a decade.
I'm sure a few magazines will survive for at least another decade, but their days are limited. I'm equally confident that by 2020 most of the wold's population will be walking around with an I-Pad type of device and an electronic gizmo attached to their ear. That will be their only form of communication.
All the best,
I spent many years earning my "crust" in publishing and media. As mentioned above, the decline of advertising revenue (related to the perceived efficacy of electronic advertising vs. print, the downturn in many lines of business and related cuts to advertising budgets) coupled with the "web is free" decline in paying subscribers to print or electronic offerings have lead to what I find to be a lack of quality journalism. Most "eyeballs" are focused on entertainment and sound bites; complicated issues or thoughtful analysis is "too hard."
Compounding this in sailing journalism is the backscratching coverage that results when articles of products/events/innovations are tied to advertising dollars.
I may be a luddite or a curmudgeon (or both) but since no one wants to buy advertising or subscriptions, we are on a path to getting our facts from Wikipedia rather than qualified, trained journalists or editors. We will get what we pay for.
And the oddest thing is that many of the free bloggers and posters view their crowning achievements as getting an article into print...
Go figure. Go sailing.
Utterly agree.... but...
did you make that up? I wondered where you were going with it. Well written
Gary and Jim
as a hack I conider myself lucky to still have two sailing magazines I can write for. Practical Boat Owner in the UK who pay around £100 a page - snaps for free. The other is Small Craft Advisor - at around $100 a page.
terrible money compared to even ten years ago....but times are tough for the publishers.
So in the land of the Ipad what is the revenue model?
I assume that there is not one for a market as tiny as yachting journalism.
At the moment on the streamed video films I earn around 70 cents a 1000 downloads
a million viewed films a year adds up to $700 - or about a week's wages for an employed trainee hack.
amazingly, old blokes are still buying the DVDs - which I hand label and stick into Jiffy bags myself here at KTL mega corp industries limited
but I assume that market will die - and I am already giving the films away free for streaming on the web
However, and here is the clincher......
a hypothetical question
if you could choose between no more magazines
no more sailing related web sites, forums or searches I know which way I would go
what I hate is the way my own behaviour is killing my own industry
PS tough times are the reason why I have spent this winter sailing a duck punt rather than investing £50 in a tank of petrol to get to the proper boat
Duck punt in a stiff breeze - www.keepturningleft.co.uk - YouTube
the inevitable demise of real sailing journalism - www.keepturningleft.co.uk - YouTube
The general decline in journalism everywhere (not just in the sailing pubs) is directly linked to the race for short-term profits that now dominates most corporate publishers. Publishing has always been a business, but it used to be something else. Writers, editors, and more importantly the owners, used to actually believe in something more than just the dollar. Those days are now gone.
I am a 20+ year veteran of the freelance writing business. I've watched rates slide during my entire career. But it's not the fault of the Web, nor even those who steal my work rather than pay the sticker price. It is the fault of the owners who drive down freelance rates, who keep firing staff, and who happily sell their souls to advertisers if it means making their quarterly profit level. This keeps the shareholders happy, and their own bonuses coming, but it is a death-spiral for the publication itself.
Most readers can't articulate what good writing looks like, but as the quote goes, "I know what I like." Circulations have been dropping for years, even while profits remain strong (yes, the magazine and newspaper biz, at least in Canada, remains profitable). It's little wonder readers are abandoning mainstream publications, and turning to blogs, forums and social media.
It's a death-spiral, but owners don't seem to care. As long as next quarter's profits are good, they are happy to keep cutting holes in the boat.
Print media is dead.
Well, it's dying. Writing is on the wall. Flat, 2 dimensional media is boring and old.
Hyper Interactive Media is the future. Many years ago, when PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) released an interactive DVD version of The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving, the future of media was revealed in practice. With the density and popularity of eReaders, iPad, off brand tablets....we now have the delivery platform for this new concept.
I can't wait for the next generation of magazines to take off. I'd love to see a digital sailing magazine for my iPad, full of hyperlinks, animations, videos, music....imagine what all can go into it....like an interactive TV program and magazine and sales brochure and ???? all rolled into one.
Very exciting time.....what is to come.....and it's close....
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